Robotics team wins regional event

The Parishville-Hopkinton Central School robotics team, Code Panthers, won last year’s regional competition at Clarkson University. Provided photo

PARISHVILLE — The Parishville-Hopkinton Central School’s robotics program is only three years old, but its already proven to be a top contender in competition, winning regionally and advancing to the world level of play.

The school’s Code Panthers team, consisting of 10 students, was recently named 2020-21 season winners in Clarkson University’s NY-Potsdam Regional FIRST LEGO League Challenge Remote Championship. The theme for the FIRST LEGO League Challenge was “GAME CHANGERS powered by Star Wars: Force for Change.”

FIRST translates to For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

The Parishville-Hopkinton team went on to compete as one of only 200 teams across the globe in the first-ever FIRST LEGO League Virtual Open International event hosted by Greece.

Teacher Casandra Jock, coach of the Code Panthers team, said the program is still young.

“We’re trying to build it. This will be our third season and this is my third year with the district,” she said.

Ms. Jock was involved with the robotics program when she taught for seven years in the Gouverneur Central School District before coming to Parishville-Hopkinton.

“They had robotics and I was always like a co-coach,” she said.

While there, she took part in both the FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge.

When she came to Parishville-Hopkinton, Ms. Jock discovered there was no robotics program. So, she talked with and got approval from Principal Steven Coffin to start one.

“He worked at Gouverneur with me prior to Parishville, so I knew I had the support,” she said. “He’s absolutely supportive of moving forward with technology for students.”

As the last school year was finishing, the Parishville-Hopkinton FIRST LEGO League Robotics team advanced past Clarkson University’s regional competition and participated in world competition.

“It was right toward the end of the year; they loved it,” Ms. Jock said.

Because the competition was virtual, she said they had to move a camera around the playing table to show that everything was set up properly and that the robot met the height and width requirements for the judge’s approval.

“They actually counted the pieces; they made sure you put all the pieces on the table where they went so you couldn’t get boxes to different places and get more points,” Ms. Jock said. “It’s a lot of work, but these kids are very technologically savvy these days.”

The program has since received a $1,000 Arconic Foundation grant, which is allowing it to expand to a high school team this year.

“Some of our students that I’ve had for the past two years are now going into ninth grade and they would each cap out of the FLL League,” she said. “I didn’t want them to miss out, so I asked and got permission and we started the FTC, which is the FIRST Tech Challenge.”

Because she teaches grades seven and eight, and some nine, Ms. Jock said she knows some of the ninth-graders, but not many high school students who would participate in the FIRST Tech Challenge. So, she has been gauging interest and is promoting the program to the high school students.

“One of my pitching points is that it teaches you to problem solve, and you’re going to be doing that no matter what job you do, pretty much,” she said. “Technology is certainly up and coming.”

And the students in the district’s robotics program are keeping up with the times.

“They’re absolutely moving forward with the technology,” she said.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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